Life is precious

Psalm 16:11:
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Genesis 1:9-24
And God saw that it was good

One of the questions that engages people all over the world is this… ‘what is life?’, and it ranges from the obvious questions based in biology and how life starts, works and ends, right through to questions of a far more philosophical nature. And before you say that ‘I don’t do philosophy’ I would like to suggest that you are quite wrong. Every person I have ever met asks questions like ‘why do I do that? or ‘what is the point of that behaviour?’ and so on. And in these questions you see questions that engage with what it is to be human… essential asking what is life all about.

 

 If you Google this ‘Life is….’ You will see a staggering 7,880,000,000 returned results. Now it’s true that this is not a deeply defined questioned, but the breadth of results is enormous. They range from images about life to questions of existence, to discussions about faith, to uplifting quotes, to nihilistic thoughts, to reflections on suffering, to outpourings about the mysteries of death… literally millions of people asking the same question… what is life? how should it be lived? what meaning can you get from it?… why are we here?

 And this question about life has been brought into sharp relief for me today as I prepare to take the funeral of a man that I only met once, but whom I connected with readily. I met him last year and often wondered what had happened to him. As I have prepared for his funeral in the midst of the lockdown, with all the changes that has brought, all the social distancing that I will have to observe today that will rob the ceremony of its connectedness as people sit two meters apart. There will be no handshakes at the end, there will be a sterility about the moments of grief that feel alien to what takes place in that chapel.
Yet, because of all of this, I found myself asking about life and I was drawn to the first chapter of Genesis, especial verses 9-24 where we see the repeated phrase ‘and God saw that it was good’. Go a read that section for yourself and you will see that God saw His creation as God, and that tells me that God’s plan was for life to be good, to be beautiful. if you read on in Genesis, before Adam and Eve have to leave God’s presence, life is beautiful, everything they need is placed before them.

 And so I wanted to reflect on life now, what is life today? How should we view it? And if we are honest about how individuals experience life varies hugely depending on personal and social and national circumstances – and not all of life is great for many people. So what is life.

 Firstly, life can be hard for many people. In fact life can be painful, a slog, a never-ending battle for survival in so many different ways. From having to walk miles each day to collect water so dirty it may kill you if you drink it, to facing daily persecution, threats of slavery and a real risk of being killed, through to tormented struggles with mental health in a host of different ways. Yet, this was never the plan, this was never God’s hope for his creation. And I want to say that God knows all the suffering that goes on and hears the cries of those who suffer pain and injustice, and in the end He will balance the scales of justice. Cold comfort for many people now maybe, but ultimate hope later. It says in Romans 12:19 ‘Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”’

 On the other hand life can be good to. There is laughter, joy, happiness, passion, caring, loving, peacemaking, willingness to help, caring for those who cannot care for themselves. There are random acts of kindness, sacrificial acts for strangers, helping hands, those who seek to bring justice. Moments in life can see transformation, restoration, grace and mercy fall like refreshing rain on parched souls, broken communities, shattered nations. And in these places, these moments, the transactions of hope, there are snapshots of how God wants life to be like… there are glimpses into the closed gates of Eden, reminding us what awaits. And it is these moments we see the likeness of God shining through our hardened exteriors. Especially now, in these days of change and worry and anxiety and fear, especially now is the time to seek to share these moments as often as we can as Gospel sharers,

 Life can often be cruelly cut short. We can be robbed of time that we thought we may have, though illness or accident of selfishness. For those that are left behind after the loss of a loved one who went to soon it can feel like life is just too short. I know that there is grief in all loss but so much more when there could have been more to share together. The loss of a child feels so wrong, the loss of a parent too soon feels like an absence that can’t be healed, the loss of a friend through the torture of mental health issues feels like a situation we had no control over. Life is short, too short sometimes. In the bible we are reminded that ‘What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.’ ()James 4:14) & ‘The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.’ (Psalm 103:15-16)… and in these moments we reminded of something so very obvious, yet something we can overlook so quickly in the busy shape of our lives…

 Life is precious. To return to Genesis one, it was not the earth, or the sea, or the day or night, or the plants, or the animals that were the crowning glory of God’s creation. None of them are ‘made in God’s image. They bear the tool marks of the creator but the likeness of the creator. It was only in the creation of mankind that God saw the pinnacle of His creative love. It was only into mankind that God breathed His spirit breath. And that must tell us something about who God sees our lives, and how we should see them. God sees life as precious, something profoundly unique to each of us. It is why God is angered by injustices dispatched, why he weeps to a broken world where disease, famine, hunger, wealth inequity and so much more reign. Life is not just a biological game of chance, it is a gift from the creator the created and it is precious, it is special and it is to be cherished, protected and valued as God does us. Your life, my life, although brief, and often places of pain, and maybe not as long as we would have hoped for… these lives are precious… and so, by definition, are you precious to.